MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Pet owners across the country are experiencing long wait times at animal clinics due to a shortage of veterinarians.

Studies show South Carolina specifically is impacted.

One Grand Strand veterinarian said one of the biggest problems is the number of vet schools in the country. There are currently only 30, with most schools only having 100 seats available.

“This is the worst that I’ve ever seen, the shortage,” said Jessica Wnuk, the executive director at Grand Strand Humane Society.

Veterinarians, veterinarian technicians and their receptionist shortages have been a problem across the county, mainly since COVID.

Wnuk said the number of intakes in shelters has been increasing, but the number of vets need to keep up.

“I encourage pet parents to work with your veterinarian hospital, be patient, expect a wait time when you arrive,” she said.

Wnuk said wait times are bad now, but not quite as bad as during the pandemic. Dr. Amber Leavis at VCA Palmetto Animal Hospital concurred.

“Oh yes, we’re talking about months for wait times to get to see primary care, for sick visits, even for your wellness stuff,” Leavis said.

Leavis said visits are only booked a couple of days in advance, but that sick animals still take priority at animal hospitals. She said that they’re fortunate to have several veterinarians, and Wnuk agrees.

“Grand Strand Humane Society is excited to announce they have hired a full-time veterinarian and clinic services will be re-opening five days a week, starting next week,” Wnuk said.

According to the Charleston Animal Society, that’s rare.

“Within the animal shelter, there are probably around 80% of animal shelters in the state that do not have a vet on staff,” Joe Elmore said.

Leavis said the shortage is coming from multiple things, especially compassion fatigue, leading vets to have one of the highest suicide rates.

“Working long hours, yes you can do that in any industry, but having the compassion fatigue on top of that can be very overwhelming to this industry,” Leavis said.

Leavis said the more they have access to mental healthcare, the better it’ll be for their industry.

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Jackie LiBrizzi is a multimedia journalist at News13. Jackie is originally from Hamilton, New Jersey, and was raised in Piedmont, South Carolina. Jackie joined the News13 team in June 2023 after she graduated as a student-athlete from the University of South Carolina in May 2023. Follow Jackie on X, formerly Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and read more of her work here.